Thursday, October 29, 2015

Tahini Dressed Butternut Squash with Chickpeas

An Innocent Squash

      First of all I would like to say that I love butternut squash. I really do. With that said, if you were to ask me if I like it, I would probably tighten my lips and scrunch up my nose before I said (with hesitation) it's okay. This is because before I learned about roasting squash to bring out it's delicious sweetness, squash to me was what my mother made at the holidays. She boiled it until it fell apart at the sight of a fork, then drained, sugared, buttered, mashed and put it in a bowl, where over time it became a grainy mound of water leaching mush. I don't think my mother was the only one to commit this crime against squash. That's just what they used to do to vegetables (way back then). I promise that you will not find any of that here.

      Luckily I was able to get over the trauma of my mother's squash and give the innocent vegetable another go;  otherwise I would have missed out on dishes like this.
   This is one of my favorite ways to use tahini. It is a simple sesame dressing that mixes well with all kinds of grains and vegetables. I often eat it over quinoa and some steamed broccoli for a quick meal. Here I have paired it with roasted butternut squash, because the markets are flooded with them, and chickpeas, because it seemed the natural thing to do. Tahini and chickpeas have been joined at the hip for centuries.
   The sweetness of the squash is the main player here, but there are a lot of other flavors kicking around in this dish. There is the mellow heat of the ginger, the distinct tang of the vinegar, the brightness of the cilantro, and of course the nutty, earthy tahini is there to round out the team. The cinnamon is subtle here, detected first with the nose, and the onion adds a bit of raw bite and juicy crunch. But what I appreciate most is the  way the structure of the cubed squash, with it's rawness cooked out of it, transforms itself into soft smooth sweetness.

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees

Recipe serves 4 as a side.

For the squash:
2 lbs. of butternut squash peeled and cut into 3/4" cubes
2T. olive oil
2tsp. grated ginger
2 cloves of minced or crushed garlic (I advise against using a  garlic press here)
1/8tsp. cinnamon
dash or two of cayenne (1/16 tsp.)
salt and pepper

1 c. cooked chickpeas (garbanzo beans) - use fresh cooked if you can, but if not I suggest draining a can of chickpeas and rinsing them well. Then boiling them in clean salted (if needed) water for about 8-10 minutes before draining again. I think this makes them taste better. Taste them before adding salt. (note: I use only beans from BPA free cans)

2T. minced red onion
2T. toasted sunflower seeds 
1/4 c. chopped cilantro

3T. cider vinegar
2T+ 1tsp. tahini
2tsp. sesame oil ( not toasted)
or more olive oil
1T. olive oil
2 tsp. tamari or Bragg's liquid aminos
2T. water
salt (if needed) and pepper

   Mix the cut squash with the oil and spices. Then spread it on a baking sheet. I like to line my sheets with parchment for easy clean up. Place the pan in the preheated oven for about 25 minutes ( give it a stir after about 15 minutes). They will be tender and easily pierced with a fork when done. 

Make the dressing by whisking together all the ingredients.

In a large bowl mix the cooked squash, chickpeas, onion, seeds, and cilantro.  Pour on the dressing and mix well. Serve. You could sprinkle some extra seeds and cilantro on top.

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